Have you ever gasped at a movie? Not at horror or surprise, but at wonder? Have you ever proclaimed “Wow” at a beautiful shot or scene in the middle of the theater? Have you ever been floored by the sheer beauty of a movie? I have, several times, but it’s rare. The last film I saw in theaters that I actually audibly gasped at true amazement was George Miller’s masterpiece Mad Max Fury Road.
The Academy Award nominated for Best Motion Picture acid dream action extravaganza had me floored the instant I saw the first trailer released during the 2014 Comic-Con. If I weren’t already a fan of the Mad Max series, I would have become one just based on the ballsy and insane imagery in that first trailer. This trailer was unique due to the images on display. There were explosions, massive car chases, bright colors, two headed geckos (!), and the insanity of the Mad Max franchise. The trailer teased the beautiful composition and the outstanding action that would become synonymous with this film.
For me, the outstanding mesmerizing action was overshadowed by the intricate world-building that George Miller performed in the film. Yes I loved the action and the characters (I have nicknamed my niece Furiosa), but the hints at the world left behind and those lost or forgotten were incredibly enticing and profound. I wanted to learn more about this destroyed world and its inhabitants. One such group of people are the Crow Fishers, the stilt-walking cloaked entities slowly maneuvering through the bog.
When the film cut to the shot seen in the still above, I first thought that these must be the only remnants of trees in this world. Then the things I first interpreted as trees began to move, began to traverse the bog, began to look at our heroes driving in the background. “Whoa”. That’s all I said. My mouth opened up, the word escaped, and I smiled and almost laughed at myself. For anyone who knows me personally, I am typically very quiet as I watch films, I rarely talk and I find it very annoying when others talk over a film or a television show. But during this quick shot, I had to exclaim my awe. “Whoa”, what a shot.
This shot is quick and over in an instant. There are no other references to these mysterious people. I only learned that they are called “Crow Fishers” thanks to the Wiki. But as I witnessed their brief silhouetted appearance, I had to know who they were and what they were doing. With that one shot, I inferred that these people had to use feathers and cloaks and netting and stilts to traverse and survive the harsh bog land. Maybe they were outcasts, maybe they felt that the bog could offer a defense against intruders. Maybe they were mutants. My mind raced conjuring their history and the reasoning behind their existence. I gave them a story because their presence fascinated me.
Mad Max Fury Road is full of these hints at a greater world beyond the War Boys and the Bullet Farm. A multitude of stories can be found in this world inhabited by Max and Furiosa. George Miller’s talent and genius as a filmmaker is proven in moments like the Crow Fishers. He has created such a rich, tangible, believable, and mesmerizing world for his characters to inhabit, that he can introduce this whole other species of humans with no explanation that the viewer will accept without question. Of course this is the world where people dress like crows and walk on all fours with stilts. This is the same film where the mayor of Gas Town has pierced nipples chained together. Mad Max Fury Road is packed with story and history.
One of the main criticisms thrown at Mad Max Fury Road is that the story is too simple, that little happens, that it’s one big car chase. I fully disagree with that idea. The plot might be straightforward, but the story is expansive. We, as an audience, are introduced to a wide world of different cultures and people that the film chooses not to explain their appearances or history. Miller tells his story through astounding visuals. We learn more about this world through that one shot of the Crow Fishers than many other films. Miller gives the impression that the film could leave the main characters behind and spin off in any direction and follow any other side character introduced and still be fascinating. We could follow the Vuvulani and learn about their band of elderly Amazons, we could stay with the War Boys and learn more about their societal structure, we could flash back to the time when the Green Place was still green. The film is bursting with story and ideas and themes.
The Crow Fishers is evidence to how fully realized Miller’s already classic movie is. I experienced a moment of wonder when I first witnessed their appearance on the big screen, one which I will not soon forget. For how often does a film buff gasp at a film’s beauty and realize that this is a truly special movie showing me something I had never seen before all from one shot? Whoa, this one did.